Three Things I Love About Paris

There are many things I love about Paris, without doubt one of the most beautiful, charming and romantic cities in the world. I keep going back to Paris, because it’s not one city that you can visit for a few days just to tick off a box. It’s a city to be lived in and explored, walking or cycling through its arrondissements like a true Parisian, soaking in the culture and lifestyle of this unique place.

I have been to Paris at least ten times since my first visit with my parents in the summer of 1989, when France celebrated the bicentenary of the French Revolution and Paris was dressed up in the national blue, red and white colours. I have been back sometimes for a week, other times for just a weekend, but every time I have experienced and discovered something new.


1. The Rooftops

I remember the first time I took the escalator to the top of the Centre Pompidou, many years ago: looking out over Paris I thought about how all the rooftops created a harmonious pattern of forms and colours. That image remained impressed in my mind and those rooftops are still one of the things I love the most about Paris.

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When I went back to this city last November I stayed in an AirBNB studio on the 6th floor of a building in multicultural Belleville. The view from the tiny balcony was worth the effort of walking up the six flights of stairs: a sea of blue rooftops and in the distance, hidden by fog in the day and clearly sparkling in the night, the Tour Eiffel!

2. The Art Museums

The first time I took my husband to Paris we just walked and cycled everywhere, trying to see as much of the city as possible in just a weekend. Last November we allowed ourselves some time to visit the city’s beautiful museums, focusing on Musée d’Orsay and Musée Rodin.

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The first one doesn’t need an introduction, it’s a world-renowned museum which hosts the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings by the likes of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

The museum is worth visiting also because of the space in which it’s housed: the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900 on the left bank of the river Seine.

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Musée Rodin is dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and it’s housed in the Hôtel Biron, a jewel of Parisian rocaille architecture which was Rodin’s workshop from 1908. I loved walking in the garden around the museum, it’s a secluded and beautiful place to be in Paris.

3. The Pâtisseries

It’s no surprise that one of my favourite things about Paris is eating pastries and cakes! During our last weekend in the French capital I tracked down some of the best pâtisseries, which wasn’t too hard since they all seem to be clustered on Rue du Bac or in Le Marais.

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L’Eclair de génie, La pâtisserie des rêves and Des Gâteaux et du Pain are some of my favourite bakeries in Paris. Their shops are as beautiful, shiny and elegant as a jeweler! Full of treats for the eye and for the mouth that are impossible to resist!

Which one is your favourite city and what would be the three things you love the most about it?

This post is my entry to “A Tale of Three Cities” competition hosted by Accor Hotels. You can enter the competition by clicking here.

Hummingbird Cake from Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food

Another year, another birthday, another cake! Today is my birthday and as per tradition I have baked myself a lovely cake. This year is the Hummingbird Cake!


My recipe inspiration came from Jamie Oliver “Comfort Food” of which I received a beautiful copy signed by Jamie and customised with graffiti art at the book’s launch party last month.

You can see all my photos from #JamiesComfortFood party on my Facebook page.


During the party at Recipease in Notting Hill, Jamie Oliver’s Executive Pastry Chef Ed Loftus baked this Hummingbird Cake (as well as other cakes) from the cookbook and after tasting a piece I knew I had to make it at home!

Quite simply, this beautiful cake is bloody delicious. Light fluffy sponge with banana and pineapple galore, a crunchy dusting of pecan brittle, and a little reminder that zesty cream cheese icings rock – it’s near perfection. [Jamie Oliver]

Knowing my birthday was coming up in a few weeks, I waited patiently until the right occasion to use the Comfort Food cookbook and taste this lovely banana and pineapple cake with lime frosting again!

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On Sunday I spent a few hours baking the two sponge layers and preparing the cream cheese icing. It’s a simple cake to make and the fun part was decorating the cake with pecan brittle, lemon zest and flowers!

The cake stand and plate are by Sophie Conran (I love her ceramics!) which are available from House of Fraser’s Kitchen and Dining range.

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I have listed here the recipe ingredients in grams, but if you prefer to have them in cups, tbsp and oz (which is how they appear in the cookbook) just leave a comment below or drop me an email.



  • 250ml light olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 4 medium-sized very ripe bananas
  • 1 x 425g tin of pineapple chunks
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g pecans

For the icing

  • 400g icing sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 2 limes

For the brittle

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g pecans


Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line two 23cm round cake tins.

Sift the flour and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar and a large pinch of sea salt.

Peel the bananas and mash them up with a fork in another bowl. Drain and finely chop the pineapple and add to the bananas with the oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until combined, then fold into the dry mixture until smooth.

Finely chop the pecans and gently fold in, then divide the batter evenly between your prepared tins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until risen, golden and the sponges spring back when touched lightly in the centre. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, to make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a free-standing electric mixer, add the butter and beat until pale and creamy. Add the cream cheese, finely grate in the zest of 1 lime and add a squeeze of juice, then beat until just smooth – it’s really important not to over-mix it. Keep in the fridge until needed.

To make a brittle topping, place the caster sugar and a splash of water in a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Shake flat and don’t stir it, just swirl the pan occasionally until dissolved and lightly golden. Add the pecans and a pinch of salt, spoon around to coat, and when nicely golden, pour onto a sheet of oiled greaseproof paper to set. Once cool, smash up to small pieces.

To assemble the cake, place one sponge on a cake stand and spread with half the icing. Top with the other sponge, spread over the rest of the icing, then grate over the zest of the remaining lime. Scatter over the brittle dust and decorate with a few edible flowers.

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(To see my birthday cakes from last year and the year before click here and here!)

Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary Sophie Conran cake stand from House of Fraser. All opinions are my own.


Fried Chicken at Bird, Shoreditch

Bird is an east London diner specialised in fried chicken. Not the tasteless and greasy type you might get from a takeaway after a late night out. We are talking about 100% free range chicken from British farms, delivered fresh daily and prepared high quality ingredients. This chicken is sourced responsibly and cooked with recipes developed by Bird’s founders after researching on the best fried chickens in US and Asia.

‘Free Range & Fried’ describes our product and how it’s prepared, but it also describes our attitude to what we do – naughty but nice.


I rarely eat fried food in general, but every now and then it’s hard to resist to a perfectly-cooked, crispy and delicious fried chicken! So when I received an invite to review Bird in Shoreditch I immediately took the chance to try their dishes.

I went there for lunch on Saturday with my brother Paolo; the restaurant wasn’t busy at all, but I think it’s the kind of restaurant that gets very busy on Friday and Saturday evenings and late nights. The location is on Kingsland Road at the crossover between Shoreditch and Dalston, a part of London that gets very busy in the evenings.

The decor reminds me on an American diner with the neon lights, red chairs, doughnuts trays and filter coffee machine, but there’s a touch of east-London cool with the industrial look and bare brick walls.

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I like the branding a lot, especially the little bird logo on the blue tables. Subtle and smart branding!


I started with a frozen Passion Fruit Margarita which was delicious!


The menu is simple: you can choose from fried chicken platters (with different glazes and sauces) or burgers and sandwiches. If you order a platter, you have a choice between “white”, “dark” or “mixed” chicken pieces with the white being breast and the dark being drumsticks and thighs. We ordered 4 mixed pieces with sweet plum and buttermilk ranch sauces on the side, and we got two drumsticks, one thigh and one breast.The smaller pieces were perfect, especially with a drizzle of sweet plum sauce.

The breast piece had perhaps too much meat so the ratio of meat / fried crust wasn’t perfectly balanced.


The signature dish at Bird is Chicken and Waffle: two pieces of fried chicken on a fresh cheddar & onion waffle, with Canadian maple syrup.

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This dish was really good, with soft waffles and tasty meat with a crunchy fried crust. It’s perfect as a weekend brunch dish!

To add a bit of greens to our meal we ordered two salads: house slaw with cider vinegar dressing and little green salad with buttermilk ranch dressing. Both sides were disappointing unfortunately, neither of them having much flavours. I was tempted the order the jalapeno corn pudding, so maybe I will choose that next time.


Since it was a weekend and by now I had already given up all hopes of a January detox, I ordered the Ice Cream Doughnut Sandwich for dessert. At Bird they bake doughnuts everyday in two flavours, on Saturday the choice was between Cinnamon Glaze and Dark Chocolate. The sandwich is a doughnut filled with one scoop of vanilla, fresh whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauces.


I love doughnuts and this one was very good, but I would have definitely enjoyed it more on its own.

The sandwich was overly rich and sweet even for a sugar-lover like me. The dough was too thick to cut through it with a spoon, but at the same time the sandwich was too big to eat with hands. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it.

My brother didn’t want to share it, feeling full (and guilty) after all the fried chicken, so I attempted to break pieces of the doughnut with my hands, leaving the ice-cream and cream aside.


Despite a few hiccups, I overall enjoyed my lunch at Bird. I went there for the fried chicken and that didn’t disappoint. As they say, it was “naughty but nice”!

Disclaimer: I was a guest at Bird. All opinions are my own.

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Pear and Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding

Finding good quality, seasonal and fresh vegetables and fruits in London is not impossible, but is also not easy. Yes there are farmers markets and local delis, but 9 times out of 10 I’d be doing my food shopping from a big supermarket chain where tproduce is often tasteless

With this in mind, it was a pleasure to receive a beautiful veggie box from WholeGood last week!

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WholeGood is an online supplier of fresh and organic fruit and vegetables who delivers delivers in UK via Ocado.

We are an organic fruit and vegetable wholesaler delivering to some of the UK’s finest retailers and caterers (and now to your doorstep!). All our produce is fresh, seasonal and delicious – just as it should be.

The contents of the box definitely exceeded my expectations and also scared me a little bit: how was I going to cook (and eat!) all these vegetables? So I messaged a few friends to invite them for dinner last Saturday, when I spent nearly the entire day in my kitchen chopping and cooking and trying out new recipes.


I am beyond impressed with the quality of the box and I would recommend it to anyone, especially if you cook at home regularly. The vegetables and fruits were fresh, as you would expect, but I’ve had bad experiences with subscription boxes in the past so I take nothing for granted. The blood oranges in particular were absolutely fantastic and I used them to make a delicious juice.

In the past week I have made two batches of sweet potato, leek & carrot soup; slow-cooked cabbage with apples and white vinegar; mushroom risotto; celery and carrots crudites for my dinner party; kale with caramelised onions and a Pear and Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding for which I am sharing the recipe today!


Usually when I buy pears from the supermarket they are always hard like a stone and tasteless, then after a few days they ripen all at once and go bad in a day if I don’t eat them right then. The pears from the Wholegood box were delicious: full of taste, but still a bit crunchy.

More than from a recipe, this pudding was made from an idea to pair chocolate and pears in an easy dessert. I wanted to use the pears, so I built the cake around them! I used bits and pieces of recipes from different sources (Martha Stewart and BBC Food).


  • 400g brioche bread, sliced
  • 30g unsalted butter, room temperature (plus extra for greasing)
  • 3 pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 350ml whole milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar, for glazing


Grease a 20cm rectangular oven dish with butter. Coarsely chop the chocolate and slice the pears. Leave them aside.


Butter the bread slices on one side. Place two slices side by side at the back of the dish, gently pressing them down to get into shape. Add two or three pear slices on the bread, then sprinkle the chocolate chips over.


Repeat until you have filled the dish, alternating bread and pears.


Gently warm the milk and cream in a pan over a low heat to scalding point. Don’t let it boil.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the granulated sugar until pale. Add them to the pan with the milk and cream and cook them at low heat. Stir continuously in the same direction until you have obtained a thick custard cream. Turn off the heat and let it cool down for five minutes.


Pour the custard over the prepared bread layers and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the dish into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven, sprinkle the brown sugar over the pudding and bake it for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary WholeGood veggie box. All opinions are my own.

“Behind The Scenes”: My Kitchen

One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I am a moaner. As much as I try to keep a cheerful and optimistic attitude in life (I know I’m a very lucky girl!), I also love complaining about things from time to time. Maybe this comes from being such a perfectionist in everything I do, but always notice when something is “not perfect” or at least is not “how I would like it”.

Naturally it was never going to be easy for me to find the perfect home to buy in London. To find a nice two-bedroom property in this city you have to compromise on something: layout, space or location. Something I wouldn’t compromise on was having a modern kitchen with lots of light and luckily I found a flat that offered both.


I spend a lot of time in my kitchen, at least 1-2 hours a day, usually more during the weekend. Our kitchen is an open space connected to our dining and living room, so now that I work from home it’s become even more important for me to make this space comfortable and functional.

Recently I was asked by Wren Kitchens, a UK manufacturer and privately-owned family business with 35 years of experience, to write an article on how I would improve the layout of my kitchen. I wouldn’t change a lot, I love the way my kitchen looks.

I love this space because it’s bright and modern; I love the wenge colour of the cupboards and breakfast bar table; I also love the gas hob and that there are many sockets to use my appliances.


Then last Saturday I spent literally the entire day in my kitchen, prepping and cooking food for a large group of friends I had invited to dinner. So after spending 10 hours inside the kitchen I could certainly point out a few things that I would change about it!

What I don’t like about my kitchen workspace is that the counters are small, so when I’m chopping vegetables or making pastry I can never fit all the ingredients on the counter. And if I’m using the chopping board, there is no space for someone else (cue: my husband) to wash the dishes at the same time. We have a dish-washer but we barely use it, as I don’t have many pans so I often have to wash one and re-use straight away.


One side of the kitchen is floor-to-ceiling windows, so we cannot add new cupboards but we don’t have enough storage space for all my props and appliances. I like a clean and minimalistic look, so I try not to clutter the kitchen counters with too many things, but at the same time I don’t know where to hide things anymore! Keeping pots and pans on the floor is never a good look!

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One thing that I love is our breakfast bar table, which is something we got custom-made as it wasn’t originally in the flat. It’s great when we have friends over for dinner: I always serve the aperitivo and drinks here, so my guests can enjoy a glass of wine and snacks while I finish cooking the meal.


I have always wanted a kitchen space where guests can interact with me while I am cooking, but my breakfast bar is small and even though we can fit two stools, it’s a bit tight if two people sit together at the table.

I played around with the “design your own” function on the Wren Kitchens website and I came up with two layouts that I love for a bigger and more functional workspace. What I would really love – if I had the space – is a kitchen island in the middle of the kitchen, like this one:

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Wren Kitchens – The Linda Barker Collection

I love this kitchen island from their Linda Baker collection: it would be large enough for all my baking experiments and to have breakfast with my husband in the morning or for aperitivo with friends in the evening. I would remove the table and chairs from the side and just have bar stools like the ones in this picture. I love bar stools! :)


Wren Kitchens – “Autograph”

Another detail I love about these kitchens is the white tiled wall, as it’s easy to clean unlike a white wall like the one I have in my home now.

This other layout from the Designer collection and it has everything I want: a kitchen island, long counters, plenty of cupboards and three wall shelves where I would show off all my props and accessories! :) I love the granite counters which would make a lovely background for my food photos!


Wren Kitchens – The Designer Collection

Both kitchen layouts require a bigger space than the one I have in my flat, so I can only dream for now, but hopefully one day I will have a home with the “perfect” kitchen!

What would you change about your kitchen and which features are most important to you? I’d love to know your opinion, so please leave a comment!

Disclosure: this post was written with help from Wren Kitchens. All opinions are my own.



Emilia Romagna Wine Lunch at Petersham Nurseries

One of the most charming places around London to enjoy a relaxed weekend lunch is in my opinion Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. The award-winning restaurant was opened in a local garden by the Boglione family in 2004 and in 2011 was awarded its first Michelin star under the direction of Chef Skye Gyngell. The restaurant is surrounded by a garden centre, the nurseries, which has existed since the 1970’s and was completely restored by Gael & Francesco Boglione to become the beautiful place it is today.

Damian Clisby is now the Head Chef at Petersham Nurseries Cafe and he works alongside the Culinary Director Lucy Boyd to “create an evolving menu inspired by what is growing in the garden, the changing seasons, and our connection to the environment”.

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Petersham Nurseries regularly organise events such as cooking and gardening classes, food walks, fundraisings and wine lunches. In December I had the great pleasure to attend the Emilia Romagna Wine Lunch organised by Petersham Cellar and hosted inside the Garden Shop glasshouse.


At the lunch we sampled four courses designed and prepared by Damian to celebrate the food of this Italian region.

Emilia Romagna lies between the River Po and the Apennine Mountains. It is one of the most fertile and productive regions of Italy, thanks to the mitigating effect that the Adriatic Sea has on the coastal climate. [quote from the wine lunch menu]

Emilia Romagna is of course famous all over the world for Parma Ham as well as Grana and Parmigiano cheeses. They also produce great wines, such as Gutturnio, Trebbiano, Lambrusco and Sangiovese. During the lunch we tasted five different wines carefully selected by the Petersham Cellar team.


On arrival we were offered a glass of Lambrusco Secco from Cantine Ceci to go with the Prosciutto di Parma by Pio Tosini and Parmigiano Reggiano “Scaglia D’oro” D.O.P. (aged 30 months), drizzled with traditional San Giacomo Balsamic Vinegar.


During the aperitivo I had the chance to finally meet in person Valeria of Life Love Food, a food blog I have been reading for a couple of years now, and her husband Jesse who works for Petersham Cellar. Jesse had kindly invited me and my husband to this event. We chatted about life in London, travels and our love for Italian food!

It was time for the next wine: Ageno from La Stoppa winery, a wine made with White Malvasia grapes.

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Shortly after our main course was served: Tortellini cooked in a broth with Pumpkin and Sage. The chef plated the dishes so that the broth was served hot.

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I loved this dish, so warming and tasty, and it definitely reminded me of Emilia Romagna.


Before the next course arrived, Jesse offered us a glass of the third wine: Arcolaio by Leone Conti, a 2008 red Sauvignon from Ravenna. Intense and well-balanced, it paired well with our second course.

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Rare Breed Tamworth Pork Sausage with Bramata Polenta and Cavolo Nero. The meat was from Paddock Farm in Warwickshire, a Slow Food UK producer.


My husband doesn’t eat pork, so he was served a vegetarian dish of giant couscous with poached egg and roasted roots with bread on the side.

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We tasted another red wine with our second course, a Sangiovese wine called Ceregio from Fattoria Zerbina. Sangiovese is a dark-berried wine and is the most widely planted grape variety in Italy (though it’s mostly associated with Tuscany).

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In true Italian Christmas spirit, the dessert was warm Panettone cake made by Petersham and served with Vin Santo Ice-Cream. The matching wine for this course was Malvasia La Stoppa, Vigna del Volta 2008, a sweet and delicious dessert wine.

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It was a fantastic event, very well organised with really good food and wines. The location of Petersham Nurseries is spectacular and I only wish I had arrived a little early for the lunch so that I could wander around the beautiful garden and shop! If you have never been, I highly recommend you do. Whether it’s for dinner or an event or just to have tea and cake at the teahouse, Petersham Nurseries is a great weekend day destination!

If you are interested in attending a wine lunch, the next Petersham Cellar event will take place on Saturday 24th January and it’s all about traditional Piemontese wines from Alba, paired with a menu designed by Petersham Nurseries Cafe chef Damian Clisby.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at this event. All opinions are my own.

Eating like a Roman in Rome

On the first weekend of December, my husband and I travelled to my hometown Rome to attend a friend’s wedding. While we spent Saturday at the ceremony and reception, on Sunday we had time to wander around the city centre and have lunch with my parents. It was a gorgeous sunny day and Rome was beautiful!


The view of Ponte Sisto and St Peter’s Basilica from Ponte Garibaldi

My husband hadn’t been to Rome since our wedding two years ago and the first thing he asked for was to eat maritozzo! This is sweet brioche bread sliced lenghtwise and filled with whipped cream. LOTS of it!


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The best place to eat maritozzo is Bar il Maritozzaro, near Trastevere and Porta Portese. The best time to eat it is at night, before going home after a night out. That’s exactly how we did it, stopping “dar maritozzaro” at two in the morning after the wedding party.

Then we went back the next day to take photos, but they had sold out all the maritozzi so instead we ate a pain au chocolat filled with whipped cream. I prefer the brioche bread, but this was still very tasty! The secret is in the sweetened whipped cream. ;)


Pain au chocolat filled with whipped cream

Oh, I forgot to tell you about breakfast: espresso macchiato and bignè alla crema di cioccolato (choux pastry with chocolate cream).

This is not a typical Roman breakfast, as bignè are traditionally eaten as dessert at the end of Sunday lunch, but clearly my husband didn’t care! ;)


Bignè al cioccolato

We met my parents in Trastevere (read my post about Eating Italy food tours) and walked together towards Campo de’ Fiori to have lunch in a local trattoria.


A friend of mine recommended to us the Hosteria Grappolo d’Oro, which served authentic Roman dishes accompanied by delicious local wine.


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Tonnarelli cacio e pepe


After lunch we walked towards Piazza Navona, Largo Argentina, Corso Vittorio and then back to Campo de’ Fiori where we stopped at GROM for gelato! Even though this is a chain which you can find across Italy, I love their ice-cream as it’s creamy, tasty and simple. I always order Crema di Grom (custard cream with chocolate chips and cookies) and Gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut cream)!


As the sun began to set we crossed the Sisto bridge and arrived back in Trastevere. It was time to drive to the airport to catch our flight back to London.


See you in a few months, Rome!